From the Desk of Ed Hume: Winter-Flowering Sasanqua Camellias

November 8, 2010 at 12:20 AM Leave a comment

I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for interesting Fall and Winter flowering plants!  Sasanqua Winter flowering camellias are one of my favorites.  Their dark glossy green leaves, interesting growth habit, and attractive Winter flowers make them a “must have” in our garden.

There are numerous varieties with single or double flowers in shades of pink, rose, red, and white.  The cut flowering branches with their bright, glossy green leaves are very popular to use in Winter floral arrangements.  Generally speaking, the flowers are much smaller and more numerous then the Spring flowering types of camellia.

Sasanqua camellias have many uses in the landscape, but they are probably most popular as container plants.  I think the main reason for this is that when planted in containers along with Winter heather, Winter pansies, and other Winter flowering plants, the container can be placed near the entry area or wherever foot traffic is heavy.  This provides beautiful Winter interest and color.  Then when the Winter flowering plants are through blooming, that container can be used in another part of the garden during the off season.

Growing heights and habits vary from stiff upright to low spreading varieties.  These various growth habits make them versatile landscape plants too.  Taller varieties are great to use in background or mid-bed plantings, while the lower ones can be used more toward the front of landscape plantings.

The main consideration in selecting a planting location is that sasanqua camellias are much like the Spring types in that they do need protection from the hot mid-day sun.  However, most tend to be a little hardier and will tolerate a bit more exposure.  Plant them in a spot where they are protected from strong winds.

Like other Camellias and Rhododendrons, they need to be planted right at ground level.  Make certain the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface, and if you use mulch, barely cover the top of the surface roots.  If you plant them too deep, they will grow but the plants will not flower.   They need soil that is well drained.

The best time to fertilize them is after they have finished flowering in late Winter or earliest Spring.  Use an acid or rhododendron type plant food for this job.  Be especially careful not to place the fertilizer too far under the plants or you are apt to burn the tiny feeder roots.  Improper feeding will do more harm than good.  If there is ever a need to prune the plants, it can be done when they are in bloom (using the cut branches in arrangements) or, best, immediately after flowering.

If you need a spot of color in your Winter garden, I hope you’ll visit a nursery or garden center and take a look at the interesting and beautiful sasanqua camellias.

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